SALT LAKE CITY — Four Utah lawmakers are looking at new restrictions on fireworks amid concern about the high number of human-caused wildfires throughout the state this year.
Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, on Wednesday requested that a bill file be opened to clear up "ambiguities" with local rules on fireworks restrictions and consider overall policy changes in the state.
In 2011, Utah legalized the use of aerial fireworks through the month of July under a bill sponsored by Dunnigan. When complaints about the fireworks arose, a 2012 update of the legislation confined the use of fireworks to the three days before and after Independence Day and Pioneer Day.
With approval from the Legislature's Business and Labor Interim Committee on Wednesday, Dunnigan joins three fellow Democrats on the Hill calling for greater restrictions on fireworks. Reps. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, and Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, and Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, have proposed reducing the number of days fireworks are allowed.
Poulson has discussed giving municipalities express power to ban fireworks within their jurisdictions.
In July, the Cottonwood Heights City Council voted for emergency restrictions on the use of aerial fireworks, effectively banning their use around Pioneer Day celebrations and the months and days leading up to, but not including, New Year's Eve.
West Jordan also banned aerial fireworks, though the city's fire chief tried to find some option for a limited aerial fireworks zone.
The authority cities have to limit fireworks is still unclear. While municipalities may make emergency changes, they do not expressly hold the power to determine long-term policy on fireworks, Dunnigan said.
Dunnigan said "there's some ambiguity in the current fireworks law," and his bill seeks to clarify who has authority to set fireworks restrictions within the state.
The lawmaker said he has met with state fire marshals, the governor's office and other stakeholders, and he plans to continue those meetings before advancing any proposed changes to statewide fireworks policies.
Brian Cottam, director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said Tuesday that there have been 397 human-caused fires on state and private land so far this year.
Cottam blamed "stupid human tricks" as the cause for many of the fires. Fireworks were a significant cause of fires sparked during the July holidays, he said.
Cottam said that number of fires is high, even before considering the 548 total human-caused fires this year.
Cottam has met with Dunnigan and has had "good conversations," he said, about what changes might be made to allow local authorities the power to restrict fireworks, as well as determine what types of fireworks may be used.